Manchester city centre interior

PUBLISHED: 01:59 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:33 20 February 2013

Dean outside Chepstow House

Dean outside Chepstow House

Cool, calm and uncluttered. Dean Barlow's Manchester apartment is not quite the typical city centre pad<br/>WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

The morning light streams through the windows of Dean Barlows open-plan living room and kitchen. He is enjoying breakfast and swinging back and forth in his bubble chair. The rustle of the willow trees and ducks on the water outside are the only noises that disturb the silence.

But Dean is not in a peaceful wilderness. He lives in the heart of Manchester city centre. Behind those willow trees is the Bridgewater Hall, next to that is Manchester Central and peeping out above these two Manchester icons is another, the Beetham Tower.

Its just the way I like it, explained Dean, 38, who co-owns The Pavilion Bar and Grill in Congleton. Its such a peaceful place which always surprises people but step outside the door and youre right in the middle of the city. Its fantastic.

Deans apartment is in Chepstow House, a converted former cotton warehouse built in the early 1870s. I cant believe I have a home like this, he said. Im so lucky to be able to get it because houses dont come up here very often.

Its the second time he has lived in the three-storey building after first moving in when he left his parents home 18 years ago. He had been living in Macclesfield for a few years overseeing the renovation of the bar before he decided to move back.

Chepstow House was the place I moved to when I moved out of home. This was the first building that was converted into apartments in Manchester and I just loved it. When I moved in I was over the moon. When I first started looking for a house again I knew I had to be in this building. I stepped inside the door and immediately said I would take it. It turned out my brother had once owned this exact apartment. Hes not seen what Ive done to it yet but Im sure he will like it.

Dean, along with help from his father Derek, a builder, has replaced the original eighties dcor with white almost nothing but white. The walls, kitchen units and surfaces, his wardrobes, bathroom, even his prized Big Bang light hanging above the Panton dining table is white. Even the floor is white. Its made from resin which was poured onto the floor throughout the apartment and then left to set.

Dean, who also runs an event management company, explained: I wanted something that would fit in with the flat. White carpets would look grubby quickly. I found Barefoot Floor Couture in Congleton and they came up with this idea. I do a lot of entertaining and with this I can just mop it down afterwards and I dont have to worry. My nieces and nephews come over and it wouldnt matter if they drew on it because it comes off.

Admittedly not everything is white. An orange vase bursting with birds of paradise, a few carefully placed orange Pantone mugs and a huge, comfortable blue/grey sofa offer splashes of bright colour. One particular success is a painting donated by his uncle, Floyd Parkes, who was given it by an American friend. Another is a brass rubbing hanging in a frame above Deans bed.

The painting from my uncle must be 30 years old, said Dean. It was just standing behind a cupboard at my uncles house because it didnt fit the dcor he has. I think it works perfectly here.

The brass rubbing is an antique I bought while visiting friends in Cheddar Gorge. Its a rubbing from the oldest temple in Cambodia. I like the calming effect things like that have on the flat.

Antiques and more expensive pieces of furniture, including the Panton chairs and table, Deans favourite Big Bang light and the fun bubble chair, mix well with bargains Dean has found through endless research, negotiation and having a good eye. He also found a few of his favourite pieces in the Northern Quarter and, not to completely reveal his secrets, there are some that were found in a local supermarket.

Dean also loves gadgets and his kitchen has a motorised extractor hood that rises out of the hob and he also has an indoor barbecue on the hob. Light boxes are used instead of overhead lighting. One box is used as part of a glass table and the other is near the door, with a Buddha statue perched on top on it.

I spent more money on the things that mattered and less money on other things because I know I will change my mind and want to change things around. Thats why I went for something white. I wanted something that almost looked like a gallery. Im a very contemporary person and I wanted my home to be like that. I live in a big white box and I love it.

And I had to have a few gadgets because I love them.

Objects he has collected on his travels feature prominently too, like Buddha figures from Hong Kong and Australia and bamboo plants, again from Hong Kong.

It feels like a calm, peaceful place to me which is what I wanted. I love being able to come home here and relax.
Everything in the apartment has been carefully thought-out. Look carefully and youll notice he doesnt have kitchen staples like a toaster or a kettle.

He said: I didnt want to spoil the clean look of the kitchen. I have a grill and a hob so I can use them if I need to.

All my friends tell me I have obsessive compulsive disorder because Im so particular. I do realise that I am a perfectionist but its just the way I am.

You might think a house that is so white would feel clinical and unwelcoming. But Dean seems to have made his modern white box a comfortable, relaxing escape.

He said: To be back in Manchester is fantastic. I will never be able to sell this flat, I will always have it. Im so pleased with how its worked out. It feels like Ive finally come home.

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